PSYCHIC AND NOËTIC ACTION
". . . .I made man just and right,
Sufficient to have stood, though free to fall,
Such I created all th'ethereal powers
And spirits, both them who stood and them who fail;d,
Truly, they stood who stood, and fell who fell. . .
". . . The assumption that the mind is a real being, which
can be acted upon by the brain and which can act on the body through
the brain, is the only one compatible with all the facts of experience.
--GEORGE T. LADD, in the
Elements of Physiological Psychology
A NEW influence, a breath, a sound--"as
of a rushing mighty wind"--has suddenly swept over a few
Theosophical heads. An idea, vague at first, grew in time into
a very definite form, and now seems to be working very busily
in the minds of some of our members. It is this: if we would make
converts the few ex-occult teachings, which are destined to see
the light of publicity, should be made, henceforward,
more subservient to, if not entirely at one with modern
science. It is urged that the so-called esoteric
(or late esoteric) cosmogony, anthropology, ethnology, geology--psychology
and, foremost of all, metaphysics--having been adapted into
making obeisance to modern (hence materialistic) thought,
should never henceforth be allowed to contradict (not openly,
at all events) "scientific philosophy." The latter,
we suppose, means the fundamental and accepted views of the great
German schools, or of Mr. Herbert Spencer and some other English
stars of lesser magnitude; and not only these, but also the deductions
that may be drawn from them by their more or less instructed disciples.
A large undertaking this, truly; and one, moreover, in perfect
conformity with the policy of the medieval Casuists, who distorted
truth and even suppressed it, if it clashed with divine Revelation.
Useless to say that we decline the compromise. It is quite
possible--nay, probable and almost unavoidable--that "the
mistakes made" in the rendering of such abstruse metaphysical
tenets as those contained in Eastern Occultism, should be "frequent
and often important." But then all such have to be traced
back to the interpreters, not to the system itself. They have
to be corrected on the authority of the same Doctrine, checked
by the teachings grown on the rich and steady soil of Gupta Vidya,
not by the speculations that blossom forth today, to die tomorrow--on
the shifting sands of modern scientific guesswork, especially
in all that relates to psychology and mental phenomena. Holding
to our motto, "There is no religion higher than truth,"
we refuse most decidedly to pander to physical science.
Yet, we may say this: If the so-called exact sciences limited
their activity only to the physical realm of nature; if they concerned
themselves strictly with surgery, chemistry--up to its legitimate
boundaries, and with physiology-so far as the latter relates to
the structure of our corporeal frame, then the Occultists would
be the first to seek help in modern sciences, however many their
blunders and mistakes. But once that over-stepping
material Nature the physiologists of the modern "animalistic"2
school pretend to meddle with, and deliver ex cathedrâ
dicta on, the higher functions and phenomena of the mind,
saying that a careful analysis brings them to a firm conviction
that no more than the animal is man a free-agent, far less
a responsible one--then the Occultist has a far greater right
than the average modern "Idealist" to protest. And the
Occultist asserts that no materialist--a prejudiced and one-sided
witness at best--can claim any authority in the question of mental
physiology, or that which is now called by him the physiology
of the soul. No such noun can be applied to the word "soul,"
unless, indeed, by soul only the lower, psychic mind is
meant, or that which develops in man proportionally with the perfection
of his brain) into intellect, and in the animal into a
higher instinct. But since the great Charles Darwin taught
that "our ideas are animal motions of the organ of
sense" everything becomes possible to the modern physiologist.
Thus, to the great distress of our scientifically inclined Fellows,
it is once more Lucifer's duty to show how far we are at
loggerheads with exact science, or shall we say, how far the conclusions
of that science are drifting away from truth and fact. By "science"
we mean, of course, the majority of the men of science; the best
minority, we are happy to say, is on our side, at least as far
as free-will in man and the immateriality of the mind are concerned.
The study of the "Physiology" of the Soul, of the Will
in man and of his higher Consciousness from the standpoint
of genius and its manifesting faculties, can never be summarized
into a system of general ideas represented by brief formulae;
no more than the psychology of material nature can have
its manifold mysteries solved by the mere analysis of its physical
phenomena. There is no special organ of will, any more
than there is a physical basis for the activities of self-consciousness.
"If the question is pressed as to the physical basis for the activities of
self-consciousness, no answer can be given or suggested. . . .From its very nature, that marvelous
verifying actus of mind in which it recognizes the states as its own, can have no analogous
or corresponding material substratum. It is impossible to specify any physiological process
representing this unifying actus; it is even impossible to
imagine how the description of any such process could be brought into intelligible relation with
this unique mental power."3
Thus, the whole conclave of psycho-physiologists may be challenged
to correctly define Consciousness, and they are sure to fail,
because Self-consciousness belongs alone to
man and proceeds from the SELF, the higher
Manas. Only, whereas the psychic element (or Kama-manas)4
is common to both the animal and the human being--the far
higher degree of its development in the latter resting merely
on the greater perfection and sensitiveness of his cerebral cells--no
physiologist, not even the cleverest, will ever be able to solve
the mystery of the human mind, in its highest spiritual manifestation,
or in its dual aspect of the psychic and the
or the manasic),5or even to comprehend the
of the former on the purely material plane--unless he knows something
of, and is prepared to admit the presence of this dual element.
This means that he would have to admit a lower (animal), and a
higher (or divine) mind in man, or what is known in Occultism
as the "personal" and the "impersonal" Egos.
For, between the psychic and the noëtic,
between the personality and the individuality, there
exists the same abyss as between a "Jack the Ripper,"
and a holy Buddha. Unless the physiologist accepts all this, we
say, he will ever be led into a quagmire. We intend to prove it.
As all know, the great majority of our learned "Didymi"
reject the idea of free-will. Now this question is a problem that
has occupied the minds of thinkers for ages; every school of thought
having taken it up in turn and left it as far from solution as
ever. And yet, placed as it is in the foremost ranks of philosophical
quandaries, the modern "psycho-physiologists" claim
in the coolest and most bumptious way to have cut the Gordian
knot for ever. For them the feeling of personal free agency is
an error, an illusion, "the collective hallucination of mankind."
This conviction starts from the principle that no mental activity
is possible without a brain, and that there can be no brain without
a body. As the latter is, moreover, subject to the general laws
of a material world where all is based on necessity, and where
there is no spontaneity, our modern psycho-physiologist has nolens.
volens to repudiate any self-spontaneity in human action.
Here we have, for instance, a Lausanne professor of physiology,
A. A. Herzen, to whom the claim of free-will in man appears as
the most unscientific absurdity. Says this oracle:--
"In the boundless physical and chemical laboratory that surrounds
man, organic life represents quite an unimportant group of phenomena;
and amongst the latter, the place occupied by life having reached
to the stage of consciousness, is so minute that it is absurd
to exclude man from the sphere of action of a general law, in
order to allow in him the existence of a subjective spontaneity
or a free will standing outside of that law"--(Psychophysiologie
For the Occultist who knows the difference between the psychic
and the noëtic elements in man, this is pure trash, notwithstanding
its sound scientific basis. For when the author puts the question--if
psychic phenomena do not represent the results of an action of
a molecular character whither then does motion disappear after
reaching the sensory centers?--we answer that we never denied
the fact. But what has this to do with a free-will? That every
phenomenon in the visible Universe has its genesis in motion,
is an old axiom in Occultism; nor do we doubt that the psycho-physiologist
would place himself at logger-heads with the whole conclave of
exact scientists were he to allow the idea that at a given moment
a whole series of physical phenomena may disappear in the vacuum.
Therefore, when the author of the work cited maintains that the
said force does not disappear upon reaching the highest nervous
centers, but that it is forthwith transformed into another series,
viz., that of psychic manifestations, into thought, feeling, and
consciousness, just as this same psychic force when applied to
produce some work of a physical (e.g., muscular) character
gets transformed into the latter--Occultism supports him, for
it is the first to say that all psychic activity, from its lowest
to its highest manifestations is "nothing but--motion."
Yes; it is MOTION; but not all "molecular"
motion, as the writer means us to infer. Motion as the GREAT
BREATH (vide "Secret Doctrine,"
vol, i. sub voce)--ergo "sound" at the same time--is
the substratum of Kosmic-Motion. It is beginningless and endless,
the one eternal life, the basis and genesis of the subjective
and the objective universe; for LIFE (or Be-ness)
is the fons et origo of existence or being. But molecular
motion is the lowest and most material of its finite manifestations.
And if the general law of the conservation of energy leads modern
science to the conclusion that psychic activity only represents
a special form of motion, this same law, guiding the Occultists,
leads them also to the same conviction--and to something else
besides, which psycho-physiology leaves entirely out of all consideration.
If the latter has discovered only in this century that psychic
(we say even spiritual) action is subject to the same general
and immutable laws of motion as any other phenomenon manifested
in the objective realm of Kosmos, and that in both the organic
and the inorganic (?) worlds every manifestation, whether conscious
or unconscious, represents but the result of a collective causes,
then in Occult philosophy this represents merely the A,B,C, of
its science. "All the world is in the Swara; Swara is
the Spirit itself--the ONE LIFE or motion,
say the old books of Hindu Occult philosophy. "The propertranslation of the word Swara is the current of the
life wave," says the author of "Nature's Finer Forces,"6 and he goes on to explain:
"It is that wavy motion which is the cause of the evolution
of cosmic undifferentiated matter into the differentiated universe.
. . . From whence does this motion come? This motion is the spirit
itself. The word atma (universal soul) used in the book
(vide infra), itself carries the idea of eternal motion,
coming as it does from the root, AT, or eternal
motion; and it may be significantly remarked, that the root AT
is connected with, is in fact simply another form of, the roots
AH, breath, and AS, being.
All these roots have for their origin the sound produced by the
breath of animals (living beings).... The primeval current of
the life-wave is then the same which assumes in man the form of
inspiratory and expiatory motion of the lungs, and this is the
all-pervading source of the evolution and involution of the universe...."
So much about motion and the "conservation of energy"
from old books on magic written and taught ages before
the birth of inductive and exact modern science. For what does
the latter say more than these books in speaking, for instance,
about animal mechanism, when it says:--
"From the visible atom to the celestial body lost in space,
everything is subject to motion . . . kept at a definite
distance one from the other, in proportion to the motion which
animates them, the molecules present constant relations, which
they lose only by the addition or the subtraction of a certain
quantity of motion."7
But Occultism says more than this. While making of motion on the
material plane and of the conservation of energy, two fundamental
laws, or rather two aspects of the same omnipresent law-- Swara,
it denies point blank that these have anything to do with
the free-will of man which belongs to quite a different
plane. The author of "Psychophysiologie Générale,"
treating of his discovery that psychic action is but motion,
and the result of a collective causes--remarks that as it is so,
there cannot be any further discussion upon spontaneity--in the
sense of any native internal proneness created by the human organism;
and adds that the above puts an end to all claim for free-will!
The Occultist denies the conclusion. The actual fact of man's
psychic (we say manasic or noëtic) individuality
is a sufficient warrant against the assumption; for in the
case of this conclusion being correct, or being indeed, as the
author expresses it, the collective hallucination of the whole
mankind throughout the ages, there would be an end also to
Now by "psychic" individuality we mean that self-determining
power which enables man to override circumstances. Place half
dozen animals of the same species under the same circumstances,
and their actions while not identical, will be closely similar;
place half a dozen men under the same circumstances and their
actions will be as different as their characters, i.e., their
But if instead of "psychic" we call it the higher Self-conscious
Will, then having been shown by the science of psycho-physiology
itself that will has no special organ, how will the materialists
connect it with "molecular" motion at all? As Professor
George T. Ladd says:
"The phenomena of human consciousness must be regarded as
activities of some other form of Real Being than the moving molecules
of the brain. They require a subject or ground which is in its
nature unlike the phosphorized fats of the central masses, the
aggregated nerve-fibres of nerve-cells of the cerebral cortex.
This Real Being thus manifested immediately to itself in the phenomena
of consciousness, and indirectly to others through the bodily
changes, is the Mind (manas). To it the mental phenomena are to
be attributed as showing what it is by what it does. The so-called
mental 'faculties' are only the modes of the behavior in consciousness
of this real being. We actually find, by the only method available,
that this real being called Mind believes in certain perpetually
recurring modes: therefore, we attribute to it certain faculties....
Mental faculties are not entities that have an existence of themselves....
They are the modes of the behavior in consciousness of the mind.
And the very nature of the classifying acts which lead to their
being distinguished, is explicable only upon the assumption that
a Real being called Mind exists, and is to be distinguished
from the real beings known as the physical molecules of the brain's
And having shown that we have to regard consciousness as a
unit (another occult proposition) the author adds:
"We conclude, then, from the previous considerations: the
subject of all the states of consciousness is a real unit-being,
called Mind; which is of non-material nature, and acts and develops
according to laws of its own, but is specially correlated with
certain material molecules and masses forming the substance of
This "Mind" is manas, or rather its lower reflection,
which whenever it disconnects itself, for the time being, with
kama, becomes the guide of the highest mental faculties,
and is the organ of the free-will in physical man. Therefore,
this assumption of the newest psycho-physiology is uncalled for,
and the apparent impossibility of reconciling the existence of
free-will with the law of the conservation of energy is--a pure
fallacy. This was well shown in the "Scientific Letters"
of "Elpay" in a criticism of the work. But to prove
it finally and set the whole question definitely at rest, does
not even require so high an interference (high for us, at any
rate) as the Occult laws, but simply a little common sense. Let
us analyze the question dispassionately.
It is postulated by one man, presumably a scientist, that because
"psychic action is found subject to the general and immutable
laws of motion, there is, therefore, no free will in man."
The "analytical method of exact sciences" has demonstrated
it, and materialistic scientists have decreed to "pass the
resolution" that the fact should be so accepted by their
followers. But there are other and far greater scientists who
thought differently. For instance, Sir William Lawrence, the eminent
surgeon, declared in his lectures10 that:--
The philosophical doctrine of the soul, and its separate existence,
has nothing to do with this physiological question, but rests
on a species of proof altogether different. These sublime dogmas
could never have been brought to light by the labors of the anatomist
and physiologist. An immaterial and spiritual being could not
have been discovered amid the blood and filth of the dissecting
Now, let us examine on the testimony of the materialist how this
universal solvent called the "analytical method" is
applied in this special case. The author of the Psychophysiologie
decomposes psychic activity into its compound elements, traces
them back to motion, and, failing to find in them the slightest
trace of free-will or spontaneity, jumps at the conclusion that
the latter have no existence in general; nor are they to be found
in that psychic activity which he has just decomposed. "Are
not the fallacy and error of such an unscientific proceeding self-evident?"
asks his critic; and then argues very correctly that:--
"At this rate, and starting from the standpoint of this analytical
method, one would have an equal right to deny every phenomenon
in nature from first to last. For, do not sound and light, heat
and electricity, like all other chemical processes, once decomposed
into their respective elements, lead the experimenter back to
the same motion, wherein All the peculiarities of the given elements
disappear leaving behind them only 'the vibrations of molecules'?
But does it necessarily follow that for All that, heat, light,
electricity--are but illusions instead of the actual manifestations of
the peculiarities of our real world? Such peculiarities are not,
of course, to be found in compound elements, simply because we
cannot expect that a part should contain, from first to last,
the properties of the whole. What should we say of a chemist,
who, having decomposed water into its compounds, hydrogen and
oxygen, without finding in them the special characteristics of
water, would maintain that such did not exist at All nor could
they be found in water? What of an antiquary who upon examining
distributed type and finding no sense in every separate letter,
should assert that there was no such thing as sense to be found
in any printed document? And does not the author of "Psycho-physiology"
act just in this way when he denies the existence of free-will
or self-spontaneity in man, on the grounds that this distinctive
faculty of the highest psychic activity is absent from those compounded
elements which he has analyzed?"
Most undeniably no separate piece of brick, of wood, or iron,
each of which has once been a part of a building now in ruins,
can be expected to preserve the smallest trace of the architecture
of that building--in the hands of the chemist, at any rate; though
it would in those of a psychometer, a faculty by the bye,
which demonstrates far more powerfully the law of the conservation
of energy than any physical science does, and shows it acting
as much in the subjective or psychic worlds as on the objective
and material planes. The genesis of sound, on this plane, has
to be traced back to the same motion, and the same correlation
of forces is at play during the phenomenon as in the case of every
other manifestation. Shall the physicist, then, who decomposes
sound into its compound element of vibrations and fails to find
in them any harmony or special melody, deny the existence of the
latter? And does not this prove that the analytical method having
to deal exclusively with the elements, and nothing to do with
their combinations, leads the physicist to talks very glibly
about motion, vibration, and what not, and to make him entirely
lose sight of the harmony produced by certain combinations
of that motion or the "harmony of vibrations"? Criticism,
then, is right in accusing Materialistic psycho-physiology of
neglecting these all-important distinctions; in maintaining that
if a careful observation of facts is a duty in the simplest physical
phenomena, how much more should it be so when applied to such
complex and important questions as psychic force and faculties?
And yet in most cases all such essential differences are overlooked,
and the analytical method is applied in a most arbitrary and prejudiced
way. What wonder, then, if, in carrying back psychic action to
its basic elements of motion, the psycho-physiologist depriving
it during the process of all its essential characteristics, should
destroy it; and having destroyed it, it only stands to reason
that he is unable to find that which exists in it no longer. He
forgets, in short, or rather purposely ignores the fact, that
though, like all other phenomena on the material plane, psychic
manifestations must be related in their final analysis
to the world of vibration ("sound" being the substratum
of universal Akasa), yet, in their origin, they belong to
a different and a higher World of HARMONY.
Elpay has a few severe sentences against the assumptions of those
he calls "physico-biologists" which are worthy of note.
Unconscious of their error, the psycho-physiologists identify
the compound elements of psychic activity with that activity itself:
hence the conclusion from the standpoint of the analytical method,
that the highest, distinctive specialty of the human soul--free-will,
spontaneity--is an illusion, and no psychic reality. But as we
have just shown, such identification not only has nothing in common
with exact science, but is simply impermissible, as it clashes
with all the fundamental laws of logic, in consequence of which
all these so-called deductions emanating from the said identification
vanish into thin air. Thus to trace psychic action primarily to
motion, means in no way to prove the "illusion of free-will."
And, as in the case of water, whose specific qualities cannot
be deprived of their reality although they are not to be found
in its compound gases, so with regard to the specific property
of psychic action: its spontaneity
cannot be refused to psychic reality, though this property is
not contained in those finite elements into which the psycho-physiologist
dismembers the activity in question under his mental scalpel.
This method is "a distinctive feature of modern science in
its endeavor to satisfy inquiry into the nature of the objects
of its investigation by a detailed description of their development,"
says G. T. Ladd. And the author of The Elements of Physiological
The universal process of "Becoming" has been almost
personified and deified so as to make it the true ground of all
finite and concrete existence.... The attempt is made to refer
all the so called development of the mind to the evolution of
the substance of the brain, under purely physical and mechanical
causes. This attempt, then, denies that any real unit-being called
the Mind needs to be assumed as undergoing a process of development according
to laws of its own.... On the other hand, all attempts to account
for the orderly increase in complexity and comprehensiveness of
the mental phenomena by tracing the physical evolution of the brain
are wholly unsatisfactory to many minds.
We have no hesitation in classing ourselves among this number.
Those facts of experience which show a correspondence in the order
of the development of the body and the mind, and even a certain
necessary dependence of the latter upon the former, are, of course,
to be admitted; but they are equally compatible with another view
of the mind's development. This other view has the additional
advantages that it makes room for many other facts of experience
which are very difficult of reconciliation with any materialistic
theory. On the whole, the history of each individual's experiences
is such as requires the assumption that a real unit-being (a Mind)
is undergoing a process of development, in relation to the changing
condition or evolution of the brain, and yet in accordance with
a nature and laws of its own" (p. 616).
How closely this last "assumption" of science approaches
the teachings of the Occult philosophy will be shown in Part II
of this article. Meanwhile, we may close with an answer to the
latest materialistic fallacy, which may be summarized in a few
words. As every psychic action has for its substratum the nervous
elements whose existence it postulates, and outside which it cannot
act; as the activity of the nervous elements are only molecular
motion, there is therefore no need to invent a special and psychic
Force for the explanation of our brain work. Free Will would
force Science to postulate an in visible Free-Willer, a
creator of that special Force.
We agree: "not the slightest need," of a creator of
"that special" or any other Force. Nor has any one ever
claimed such an absurdity. But between creating and guiding,
there is a difference, and the latter implies in no way any
creation of the energy of motion, or, indeed, of any special energy.
Psychic mind (in contradistinction to manasic or noëtic
mind) only transforms this energy of the "unit-being"
according to "a nature and laws of its own"--to use
Ladd's felicitous expression. The "unit-being" creates
nothing, but only causes a natural correlation in accordance with
both the physical laws and laws of its own; having to use
the Force, it guides its direction, choosing the paths along which
it will proceed, and stimulating it to action. And, as its activity
is sui generis, and independent, it carries this energy
from this world of disharmony into its own sphere of harmony.
Were it not independent it could not do so. As it is, the
freedom of man's will is beyond doubt or cavil. Therefore, as
already observed, there is no question of creation, but simply of
guidance. Because the sailor at the wheel does not create
the steam in the engine, shall we say that he does not direct
the vessel? And, because we refuse to accept the fallacies of
some psycho-physiologists as the last word of science, do
we furnish thereby a new proof that free-will is an hallucination?
We deride the animalistic idea. How far more scientific
and logical, besides being as poetical as it is grand, is the
teaching in the Kathopanishad, which, in a beautiful and
descriptive metaphor, says that: "The senses are the horses,
body is the chariot, mind (kama-manas) is the reins, and
intellect (or free-will) the charioteer." Verily,
there is more exact science in the less important of the
Upanishads, composed thousands of years ago, than in all
the materialistic ravings of modern "physico-biology"
and "psychophysiology" put together!
". . . The knowledge of the past, present, and future, is
embodied in Kshetrajna (the 'Self')." --Occult Axioms
Having explained in what particulars, and why, as Occultists,
we disagree with materialistic physiological psychology, we may
now proceed to point out the difference between psychic and noëtic
mental functions, the noëtic not being recognized by official
Moreover, we, Theosophists, understand the terms "psychic"
and "psychism" somewhat differently from the average
public, science, and even theology, the latter giving it a significance
which both science and Theosophy reject, and the public in general
remaining with a very hazy conception of what is really meant
by the terms. For many, there is little, if any, difference between
"psychic" and "psychological," both words relating
in some way to the human soul. Some modern metaphysicians
have wisely agreed to disconnect the word Mind (pneuma) from Soul
(psyche), the one being the rational, spiritual part, the
other--psyche--the living principle in man, the breath that
animates him (from anima, soul). Yet, if this is so, how in this
case refuse a soul to animals? These are, no less than man, informed
with the same principle of sentient life, the nephesh of the 2nd
chapter of Genesis. The Soul is by no means the Mind, nor can
an idiot, bereft of the latter, be called a "soul-less"
being. To describe, as the physiologists do, the human Soul in
its relations to senses and appetites, desires and passions, common
to man and the brute, and then endow it with God-like intellect,
with spiritual and rational faculties which can take their source
but in a supersensible world--is to throw for ever the veil of
an impenetrable mystery over the subject. Yet in modern science,
"psychology" and "psychism" relate only to
conditions of the nervous system, mental phenomena being traced
solely to molecular action. The higher noëtic character of
the Mind-Principle is entirely ignored, and even rejected as a
"superstition" by both physiologists and psychologists.
Psychology, in fact, has become a synonym in many cases for the
science of psychiatry. Therefore, students of Theosophy being
compelled to differ from all these, have adopted the doctrine
that underlies the time-honored philosophies of the East. What
it is, may be found further on.
To better understand the foregoing arguments and those which follow,
the reader is asked to turn to the editorial in the September
Lucifer ("The Dual Aspect of Wisdom," p. 3), and acquaint
himself with the double aspect of that which is termed by St.
James in his Third Epistle at once--the devilish, terrestrial wisdom, and the "wisdom from above." In another editorial,
"Kosmic Mind" (April, 1890), it is also stated, that
the ancient Hindus endowed every cell in the human body with consciousness,
giving each the name of a God or Goddess. Speaking of atoms in
the name of science and philosophy, Professor Ladd calls them
in his work "supersensible beings." Occultism regards
every atom1 as an "independent entity"
every cell as a "conscious unit." It explains that no
sooner do such atoms group to form cells, than the latter become
endowed with consciousness, each of its own kind, and with free-will
to act within the limits of law. Nor are we entirely deprived
of scientific evidence for such statements as the two above-named
editorials well prove. More than one learned physiologist of the
golden minority, in our own day, moreover, is rapidly coming to
the conviction, that memory has no seat, no special organ of its
own in the human brain, but that it has seats in every organ of
"No good ground exists for speaking of
any special organ, or seat of memory," writes Professor G.
T. Ladd.2 "Every organ indeed, every area,
every limit of the nervous system has its own memory" (p.
553 loc. cit.).
The seat of memory, then, is assuredly neither here nor there,
but everywhere throughout the human body. To locate its organ
in the brain is to limit and dwarf the Universal Mind and its
countless Rays (the Manasa putra) which inform every rational
mortal. As we write for Theosophists, first of all, we care little
for the psychophobian prejudices of the Materialists who may read
this and sniff contemptuously at the mention of "Universal
Mind" and the Higher noëtic souls of men. But, what
is memory, we ask. "Both presentation of sense and image
of memory, are transitory phases of consciousness," we are
answered. But what is Consciousness itself?--we ask again. "We
cannot define Consciousness," Professor Ladd tells us.3
Thus, that which we are asked to do by physiological psychology
is, to content ourselves with converting the various states of
Consciousness by other people's private and unverifiable hypotheses;
and this, on "questions of cerebral physiology where experts
and novices are alike ignorant," to use the pointed remark
of the said author. Hypothesis for hypothesis, then, we may as
well hold to the teachings of our Seers, as to the conjectures
of those who deny both such Seers and their wisdom. The more so,
as we are told by the same honest man of science, that "if
metaphysics and ethics cannot properly dictate their facts and
conclusions to the science of physiological psychology . . . in
turn this science cannot properly dictate to metaphysics and ethics
the conclusions which they shall draw from facts of Consciousness,
by giving out its myths and fables in the garb of well ascertained
history of the cerebral processes" (p. 544).
Now, since the metaphysics of Occult physiology and psychology
postulate within mortal man an immortal entity, "divine Mind,"
or Nous, whose pale and too often distorted reflection is that
which we call "Mind" and intellect in men--virtually
an entity apart from the former during the period of every incarnation--we
say that the two sources of "memory" are in these two
"principles." These two we distinguish as the Higher Manas (Mind or Ego), and the Kama-Manas, i.e., the rational, but
earthly or physical intellect of man, in cased in, and bound by,
matter, therefore subject to the influence of the latter: the
all-conscious SELF, that which reincarnates
periodically--verily the WORD made flesh!--and
which is always the same, while its reflected "Double,"
changing with every new incarnation and personality, is, therefore,
conscious but for a life-period. The latter "principle"
is the Lower Self, or that, which manifesting through our organic system, acting on this plane of illusion, imagines itself the
Ego Sum, and thus falls into what Buddhist philosophy brands as
the "heresy of separateness." The former, we term INDIVIDUALITY,
the latter Personality. From the first proceeds all the noëtic element, from the second, the psychic, i.e., "terrestrial
wisdom" at best, as it is influenced by all the chaotic stimuli
of the human or rather animal passions of the living body.
The "Higher Ego" cannot act directly on the body, as
its consciousness belongs to quite another plane and planes of
ideation: the "lower" Self does: and its action and
behavior depend on its free will and choice as to whether it will
gravitate more towards its parent ("the Father in Heaven")
or the "animal" which it informs, the man of flesh.
The "Higher Ego," as part of the essence of the UNIVERSAL
MIND, is unconditionally omniscient on its
own plane, and only potentially so in our terrestrial sphere,
as it has to act solely through its alter ego--the Personal Self.
Now, although the former is the vehicle of all knowledge of the
past, the present, and the future, and although it is from this
fountain-head that its "double" catches occasional glimpses
of that which is beyond the senses of man, and transmits them
to certain brain cells (unknown to science in their functions),
thus making of man a Seer, a soothsayer, and a prophet; yet the
memory of bygone events--especially of the earth earthy--has its
seat in the Personal Ego alone. No memory of a purely daily-life
function, of a physical, egotistical, or of a lower mental nature--such
as, e.g., eating and drinking, enjoying personal sensual pleasures,
transacting business to the detriment of one's neighbor, etc.,
etc., has ought to do with the "Higher" Mind or Ego.
Nor has it any direct dealings on this physical plane with either
our brain or our heart--for these two are the organs of a power
higher than the Personality--but only with our passional organs,
such as the liver, the stomach, the spleen, etc. Thus it only
stands to reason that the memory of such-like events must be first
awakened in that organ which was the first to induce the action
remembered afterwards, and conveyed it to our "sense-thought,"
which is entirely distinct from the "supersensuous"
thought. It is only the higher forms of the latter, the superconscious mental experiences, that can correlate with the cerebral and cardiac
centres. The memories of physical and selfish (or personal) deeds,
on the other hand, together with the mental experiences of a terrestrial
nature, and of earthly biological functions, can, of necessity,
only be correlated with the molecular constitution of various
Kamic organs, and the "dynamic associations" of the
elements of the nervous system in each particular organ.
Therefore, when Professor Ladd, after showing that every element
of the nervous system has a memory of its own, adds:--"This
view belongs to the very essence of every theory which considers
conscious mental reproduction as only one form or phase of the
biological fact of organic memory"--he must include among
such theories the Occult teaching. For no Occultist could express
such teaching more correctly than the Professor, who says, in
winding up his argument: "We might properly speak, then,
of the memory of the end-organ of vision or of hearing, of the
memory of the spinal cord and of the different so-called 'centres'
of reflex action belonging to the chords of the memory of the
medulla oblongata, the cerebellum, etc." This is the essence
of Occult teaching--even in the Tantra works. Indeed, every organ
in our body has its own memory. For if it is endowed with a consciousness
"of its own kind," every cell must of necessity have
also a memory of its own kind, as likewise its own psychic and
noëtic action. Responding to the touch of both a physical
and a metaphysical Force,4 the impulse given by the
psychic (or psychomolecular) Force will act from without within;
while that of the noëtic (shall we call it Spiritual-dynamical?)
Force works from within without. For, as our body is the covering
of the inner "principles," soul, mind, life, etc., so
the molecule or the cell is the body in which dwell its "principles,"
the (to our senses and comprehension) immaterial atoms which compose
that cell. The cell's activity and behavior are determined by
its being propelled either inwardly or outwardly, by the noëtic
or the psychic Force, the former having no relation to the physical cells proper. Therefore, while the latter act under the unavoidable
law of the conservation and correlation of physical energy, the
atoms--being psycho-spiritual, not physical units--act under laws
of their own, just as Professor Ladd's "Unit-Being,"
which is our "Mind-Ego," does, in his very philosophical
and scientific hypothesis. Every human organ and each cell in
the latter has a keyboard of its own, like that of a piano, only
that it registers and emits sensations instead of sounds. Every
key contains the potentiality of good or bad, of producing harmony
or disharmony. This depends on the impulse given and the combinations
produced; on the force of the touch of the artist at work, a "double-faced
Unity," indeed. And it is the action of this or the other
"Face" of the Unity that determines the nature and the
dynamic character of the manifested phenomena as a resulting action,
and this whether they be physical or mental. For the whole of
man is guided by this double-faced Entity. If the impulse comes
from the "Wisdom above," the Force applied being noëtic
or spiritual, the results will be actions worthy of the divine
propeller; if from the "terrestrial, devilish wisdom"
(psychic power), man's activities will be selfish, based solely
on the exigencies of his physical, hence animal, nature. The above
may sound to the average reader as pure nonsense; but every Theosophist
must understand when told that there are Manasic as well as Kamic
organs in him, although the cells of his body answer to both physical
and spiritual impulses.
Verily that body, so desecrated by Materialism and man himself,
is the temple of the Holy Grail, the Adytum of the grandest, nay,
of all, the mysteries of nature in our solar universe. That body
is an Æolian harp, chorded with two sets of strings, one
made of pure silver, the other of catgut. When the breath from
the divine Fiat brushes softly over the former, man becomes like
unto his God--but the other set feels it not. It needs the breeze
of a strong terrestrial wind impregnated with animal effluvia,
to set its animal chords vibrating. It is the function of the
physical, lower mind to act upon the physical organs and their
cells; but, it is the higher mind alone which can influence the
atoms interacting in those cells, which interaction is alone capable
of exciting the brain, viâ the spinal "centre"
cord, to a mental representation of spiritual ideas far beyond
any objects on this material plane. The phenomena of divine consciousness
have to be regarded as activities of our mind on another and a
higher plane, working through something less substantial than
the moving molecules of the brain. They cannot be explained as
the simple resultant of the cerebral physiological process, as
indeed the latter only condition them or give them a final form
for purposes of concrete manifestation. Occultism teaches that
the liver and the spleen-cells are the most subservient to the
action of our "personal" mind, the heart being the organ
par excellence through which the "Higher" Ego acts--through
the Lower Self.
Nor can the visions or memory of purely terrestrial events be
transmitted directly through the mental perceptions of the brain--the
direct recipient of the impressions of the heart. All such recollections
have to be first stimulated by and awakened in the organs which
were the originators, as already stated, of the various causes
that led to the results, or, the direct recipients and participators
of the latter.
In other words, if what is called "association of ideas"
has much to do with the awakening of memory, the mutual interaction
and consistent interrelation between the personal "Mind-Entity"
and the organs of the human body have far more so. A hungry stomach
evokes the vision of a past banquet, because its action is reflected
and repeated in the personal mind. But even before the memory
of the personal Self radiates the vision from the tablets wherein
are stored the experiences of one's daily life--even to the minutes
details--the memory of the stomach has already evoked the same.
And so with all the organs of the body. It is they which originate
according to their animal needs and desires the electro-vital
sparks that illuminate the field of consciousness in the Lower
Ego; and it is these sparks which in their turn awaken to function
the reminiscences in it. The whole human body is, as said, a vast
sounding board, in which each cell bears a long record of impressions
connected with its parent organ, and each cell has a memory and
a consciousness of its kind, or call it instinct if you will.
These impressions are, according to the nature of the organ, physical,
psychic, or mental, as they relate to this or another plane. They
may be called "states of consciousness" only for the
want of a better expression--as there are states of instinctual,
mental, and purely abstract, or spiritual consciousness. If we
trace all such "psychic" actions to brain-work, it is
only because in that mansion called the human body the brain is
the front-door, and the only one which opens out into Space. All
the others are inner doors, openings in the private building,
through which travel incessantly the transmitting agents of memory
and sensation. The clearness, the vividness, and intensity of
these depend on the state of health and the organic soundness
of the transmitters. But their reality, in the sense of trueness
or correctness, is due to the "principle" they originate
from, and the preponderance in the Lower Manas of the noëtic or of the phrenic ("Kamic," terrestrial) element.
For, as Occultism teaches, if the Higher Mind-Entity--the
permanent and the immortal--is of the divine homogeneous essence
of "Alaya-Akasa,"5 or Mahat,--its
reflection, the Personal Mind, is, as a temporary "Principle,"
of the Substance of the Astral Light. As a pure ray of the "Son
of the Universal Mind," it could perform no functions in
the body, and would remain powerless over the turbulent organs
of Matter. Thus, while its inner constitution is Manasic, its
"body," or rather functioning essence, is heterogeneous,
and leavened with the Astral Light, the lowest element of Ether.
It is a part of the mission of the Manasic Ray, to get gradually
rid of the blind, deceptive element which, though it makes of
it an active spiritual entity on this plane, still brings it into
so close contact with matter as to entirely becloud its divine
nature and stultify its intuitions.
This leads us to see the difference
between the pure noëtic and the terrestrial psychic visions
of seership and mediumship. The former can be obtained by one
of two means; (a) on the condition of paralyzing at will the memory and the instinctual, independent action of all the material organs
and even cells in the body of flesh, an act which, once that the
light of the Higher Ego has consumed and subjected for ever the
passional nature of the personal, lower Ego, is easy, but requires
an adept; and (b) of being a reincarnation of one, who, in a previous
birth, had attained through extreme purity of life and efforts
in the right direction almost to a Yogi-state of holiness and
saint-ship. There is also a third possibility of reaching in mystic
visions the plane of the higher Manas; but it is only occasional
and does not depend on the will of the Seer, but on the extreme
weakness and exhaustion of the material body through illness and
suffering. The Seeress of Prevorst was an instance of the latter
case; and Jacob Boëhme of our second category. In all other
cases of abnormal seer-ship, of so-called clairaudience, clairvoyance
and trances, it is simply-mediumship.
Now what is a medium?
The term medium, when not applied simply to things and objects,
is supposed to be a person through whom the action of another
person or being is either manifested or transmitted. Spiritualists
believing in communications with disembodied spirits, and that
these can manifest through, or impress sensitiveness to transmit
"messages" from them, regard mediumship as a blessing
and a great privilege. We Theosophists, on the other hand, who
do not believe in the "communion of spirits" as Spiritualists
do, regard the gift as one of the most dangerous of abnormal nervous
diseases. A medium is simply one in whose personal Ego, or terrestrial
mind, (psuche), the percentage of "astral" light so
preponderates as to impregnate with it their whole physical constitution.
Every organ and cell thereby is attuned, so to speak, and subjected
to an enormous and abnormal tension. The mind is ever on the plane
of, and quite immersed in, that deceptive light whose soul is
divine, but whose body-the light waves on the lower planes, infernal;
for they are but the black and disfigured reflections of the earth's
memories. The untrained eye of the poor sensitive cannot pierce
the dark mist, the dense fog of the terrestrial emanations, to
see beyond in the radiant field of the eternal truths. His vision
is out of focus. His senses, accustomed from his birth, like those
of a native of the London slums, to stench and filth, to the unnatural
distortions of sights and images tossed on the kaleidoscopic waves
of the astral plane--are unable to discern the true from the false.
And thus, the pale soulless corpses moving in the trackless fields
of "Kama loka," appear to him the living images of the
"dear departed" ones; the broken echoes of once human
voices, passing through his mind, suggest to him well coordinated
phrases, which he repeats, in ignorance that their final form
and polish were received in the innermost depths of his own brain-factory.
And hence the sight and the hearing of that which if seen in its
true nature would have struck the medium's heart cold with horror,
now fills him with a sense of beatitude and confidence. He really
believes that the immeasurable vistas displayed before him are
the real spiritual world, the abode of the blessed disembodied
We describe the broad main features and facts of mediumship, there
being no room in such an article for exceptional cases. We maintain--having
unfortunately passed at one period of life personally through
such experiences--that on the whole, mediumship is most dangerous;
and psychic experiences when accepted indiscriminately lead only
to honestly deceiving others, because the medium is the first
self-deceived victim. Moreover, a too close association with the
"Old Terrestrial Serpent" is infectious. The odic and
magnetic currents of the Astral Light often incite to murder,
drunkenness, immorality, and, as Eliphas Lévi expresses
it, the not altogether pure natures "can be driven headlong
by the blind forces set in motion in the Light"--by the errors
and sins imposed on its waves.
And this is how the great Mage of the XIXth century corroborates
the foregoing when speaking of the Astral Light:
"We have said that to acquire magical power, two things are
necessary: to disengage the will from all servitude, and to exercise
it in control.
"The sovereign will (of the adept) is represented in our
symbols by the woman who crushes the serpent's head, and by the
resplendent angel who represses the dragon, and holds him under
his foot and spear; the great magical agent, the dual current
of light, the living and astral fire of the earth, has been represented
in the ancient theogonies by the serpent with the head of a bull,
a ram, or a dog. It is the double serpent of the caduceus, it
is the Old Serpent of Genesis, but it is also the brazen serpent
of Moses entwined around the tau, that is to say, the generative
lingha. It is also the goat of the witch-sabbath, and the Baphomet
of the Templars; it is the Hylé of the Gnostics; it is
the double-tailed serpent which forms the legs of the solar cock
of the Abraxas: finally, it is the Devil of M. Eudes de Mirville.
But in very fact it is the blind force which souls (i.e., the
lower Manas or Nephesh) have to conquer to liberate themselves
from the bonds of the earth; for if their will does not free them
from this fatal attraction, they will be
absorbed in the current by the force which has produced them,
and will return to the central and eternal fire'."6
The "central and eternal fire" is that disintegrating
Force, that gradually consumes and burns out the Kama-rupa, or
"personality," in the Kama-loka, whither it goes after
death. And verily, the Mediums are attracted by the astral light,
it is the direct cause of their personal "souls" being
absorbed "by the force which has produced" their terrestrial
elements. And, therefore, as the same Occultist tells us:
"All the magical operations consist in freeing one's self
from the coils of the Ancient Serpent; then to place the foot
on its head, and lead it according to the operator's will. 'I
will give unto thee,' says the Serpent, in the Gospel myth, 'all
the kingdoms of the earth, if thou wilt fall down and worship
me.' The initiated should reply to him, 'I will not fall down,
but thou shalt crouch at my feet; thou wilt give me nothing, but
I will make use of thee and take whatever I wish. For I am thy
Lord and Master!'"
And as such, the Personal Ego, becoming at one with its divine
parent, shares in the immortality of the latter. Otherwise....
Enough, however. Blessed is he who has acquainted himself with
the dual powers at work in the ASTRAL Light;
thrice blessed he who has learned to discern the Noëtic from
the Psychic action of the "Double-Faced" God in him,
and who knows the potency of his own Spirit--or "Soul Dynamics."
Lucifer, October, November, 1890